Indigenous farmers set up Colombia’s first medical marijuana co-op

A group of 53 farmers in Colombia have created the country’s first medical marijuana co-operative. Colombia recently became the fourth state in Latin America to legalise marijuana production...

A group of 53 farmers in Colombia have created the country’s first medical marijuana co-operative. Colombia recently became the fourth state in Latin America to legalise marijuana production for medicinal use. In an attempt to move away from illegal production, the country has started granting licences to pharmaceutical companies that want to cultivate the plant to generate marijuana derivate products.

The producers are based in the region of Cauca, where 50% of the illegally produced marijuana comes from. The co-op’s official launch took place in July in the city of Corinto, where health minister Alejandro Gaviria said he wanted Colombia to become the world’s top research centre on the medicinal use of marijuana. His ministry will work with the National University to develop the research centre on the therapeutic use of cannabis.

Mr Gaviria argued that Colombia could be the winner in the emerging market of medicinal marijuana products. The co-op, called Caucannabis, will be selling the plant to Sannabis, a subsidiary of New Colombia Resources, Inc. that creates marijuana derivate products such as extracts, oils and lotions. Sannabis has been growing medical marijuana in Cauca and producing derivates since 2014.

Marijuana extracts, resins and oils are used to treat patients of cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Marijuana extracts, resins and oils are used to treat patients of cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

The Colombian government is working on setting a legal framework for the plant’s cultivation, processing and export. Marijuana extracts, resins and oils are used to treat cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis – and evidence suggests it helps chronic pain and muscle spasms. At the moment, Colombia allows the export of processed derivates but not pure marijuana.

Speaking at the launch, the mayor of Corinto, said: “The idea is to present the government with a proposal to develop an alternative to substitute marijuana cultivation for recreational use with cultivation for medical purposes, boosting economic and social development in this region, which has suffered as a consequence of illicit cultivation.”

Puerto Rico and Chile are the other states that have legalised the growing of medicinal marijuana while Uruguay has lifted the barrier for the plant’s recreational use.

The new co-op includes indigenous farmers who have been affected by contraband marijuana trade. The government expects the industry to generate employment in post-conflict zones and it will set the conditions required to grant licenses as well as sanctions for those that engage in illegal traffic. The legislative changes come at a time when President Juan Manuel Santos’s government has signed a ceasefire to end the 50-year conflict with Farc guerrillas.

Health Ministry officials will be seeking to approve more proposals from foreign and local companies that want to manufacture marijuana derivates for medicinal and research purposes.

Hemp is a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis that can be grown legally in some countries.
Hemp is a non-drug variety of cannabis that is grown legally

Similarly, in Greece the government has legalised the cultivation and processing of hemp after 60 years of prohibition. Hemp – also called industrial hemp – refers to the non-psychoactive (less than 1% THC) varieties of Cannabis sativa L. B a variety of cannabis that is mainly grown for the industrial use of its derived products. Shortly after the law was enacted in April, farmers on the Greek island of Evia set up Kannabio Hemp Social Cooperative, which aims to produce domestically grown organic hemp products such as oil extraction products, nutritional supplements, food and personal hygiene products, and hempcrete for construction. Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has also set up a health ministry committee to come up with proposals for legalising medical cannabis.

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